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The Select Practical Writings of John Knox

By John Knox
April 2012 | Review by John Keddie


You are holding in your hands a rare and precious book. It contains the choicest practical writings of a man whom God used to transform his native country and bring it into the light and under the blessing of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that in spite of constant opposition and grave personal danger. The Works of John Knox, preserved in six large volumes, are virtually closed to all but the most scholarly students of history. However, thanks to the endeavours of the Rev. Thomas Thomson and the Free Church of Scotland Board of Publications, this book was compiled so that Knox might be put back into the hands of the people. Unabridged and unaltered, except for the updating of the 'antiquated orthography', one can read some of the most enduring of Knox's practical writings. These include such works as his treatise on prayer, his 'Fort for the Afflicted'- an exposition of the Sixth Psalm, his sermon on Christ's temptation in the wilderness, and his notorious sermon on Isaiah 26: 13-20. Fifteen of Knox's letters are also included at the end of the volume, twelve of which were addressed to his mother-in-law, Mrs. Elizabeth Bowes. In them the temper and character of Knox the pastor are clearly exhibited.

  • Publisher: The Banner of Truth
  • ISBN: 978-1-84871-102-0
  • Pages: 295
  • Price: 16.00
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Book Review

Select Practical Writings Of John Knox.

Banner of Truth Trust

295pages, £16.00

ISBN: 978-1-84871-102-0


Apart from his History of the Reformation in Scotland John Knox published very little. He is one of those 16th Century reformers more spoken about and written about, and misunderstood, than read. It is good, therefore, that some of his writings have again been made available. The Banner of Truth is to be commended for reprinting in an attractive re-typeset form the Select Practical Writings first published by the Free Church of Scotland in 1845.

The book, essentially, is in two parts. The first part, covering the major section of the book, comprises treatises, addresses, open letters, sermons and expositions written within the context of the political and ecclesiastical issues and movements of the time. Though naturally relevant to the times in which they were composed, they also have a timeless application, addressing as they do issues of encouraging and stirring up Christians to faithfulness in the face of antagonism. For example in chapter 6 there is ‘A Most Wholesome Counsel how to behave ourselves in the midst of this wicked generation, touching the daily exercise of God’s most holy and sacred word’ (p123ff). He also deals practically, for example, with such controverted issues as how to view Roman Catholic Baptism (p197ff).

The latter part of the volume reproduces several letters, mostly to his mother-in-law, Elizabeth Bowes (p249ff). These naturally give insight into Knox’s character of a more personal and homely nature. They also reveal his spirituality. As he wrote in one such epistle: ‘Give us, O Lord, hearts to visit thee in time of our affliction; and that albeit we see none end of our dolours [pain, grief, anguish], that yet our faith and hope may conduct us to the assured hope of that joyful resurrection, in the which, we shall possess the fruit of that for the which we now travail!’(p247).

This is a valuable collection of practical writings of the great Scottish Reformer. The language is not easy and the writing style is not elegant. Nevertheless, it will repay study and stir the heart.

John W Keddie


Isle of Skye



John Knox

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